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SEWING TUTORIALS THE
Medieval Tailor's Workshop
Sewing samples from the 14th & 15th centuries
Tailor's Workshop is often set up at events for members of the
public to come and be educated about what tools people who sewed clothing
might have used.
The entire thing is touchable! People may feel the weight of hand-forged
scissors, touch samples of real ermine, look at linen sewing threads,
traditionally dyed wools and discover that not ALL wool is scratchy
or hot. There are samples of tailoring, items like buttons, needles
and pins and samples of clothing (not shown). Often through the day,
free lucet classes or cloth button making workshops are held so sewers
can learn to make one for themselves!
And of course, sewing help is available for people making their own
Measuring stick. 36
inch wooden measuring stick with inches marked. Seen in the image
from the 14th century, A Tailor's Workshop, Tacuinum sanitatis,
MS 1673, Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris
2. Italian hand-dyed wools. Wools which have been locally sourced
in the Italian countryside and dyed naturally using medieval techniques
and dyestuffs. Colour range includes the first, second and third dye
baths. This demonstrates the colour palette available to the country
person who has limited resources.
3. Bentwood box. Bentwood boxes can be seen in a variety of
manuscripts as storage for small household items. These are made from
Finnish poplar wood and are used for storage, transport and display
of sewing threads.
4. Hand-dyed wools for sewing. Hand-dyed woolen threads fine
enough for sewing garments. Brown, red and blue are from Sweden and
are naturally dyed using historical dyestuffs and methods. The undyed
white is hand spun showing how fine a hand spun woolen thread can
5. Linen threads for sewing. Linen thread was used for sewing
garments. These samples are both dyed and undyed.
6. Hand-turned thread reels. The design of these reels is
based on an artifact find housed in the Museum of London.
7. Rabbit fur sample. Rabbit (or coney) fur was offten used
my lower and middle classes for lining outer garments and hoods.
8. Lambswool sample. Wool was sometimes used for linings for
the working classes.
9. Ermine fur sample. Ermine was one of the favourite choices
for the upper classes for lining and dress trimmings.
10. Beehive thimble. Thimbles could be made from brass or copper
alloy. The dimples were usually hand punched in the 14th century with
machine drilled holes becoming more prevelant in the 15th century.
Thickness was determined by the intended use.
11. Ring thimbles. These were also used through the medieval
period. Dimples were usually round but in the 15th century, it was
not uncommon for the dimples to be triangular or rectangular shaped,
although I am uncertain as to whether this was decorative or served
a practical purpose.
12. Pewter needle case. Based a design from a 14th century
artifact from the Thames, held at the V&A.
13. Brass needle case. Based on an artifact from the Museum
14. Pewter needle case with inscription. Slightly adapted from
a 15th c. needle case from the Netherlands (Schatten) and similar
to an English example (MoL, Pilgrim Souvenirs, fig. 7). It has the
names of the Three Kings of Cologne and an invocation to the Blessed
Virgin on the lower part. The upper and lower parts are strung together
15. Hand-sheared, spun and woven cloth sample. Sample made
by my sister when she was a teenager with very little experience.
Pet sheep was sheared, fleece home washed, spun and woven into cloth.
This sample shows what can be achieved by a young person with out
years of experience.
16. Wooden framed magnifying glasses. By the 15th century,
eyeglasses start to appear in manuscripts for tradesmen.
17. Eyelet sample. Sample of hand-sewn eyelet for dress lacing.
18. Internal woolen fabric seam sample. Sample of stitched
down seam for woolen garment.
19. Wool clothing seam sample. Sample of stitched down seam
for woolen garment.
20. Bone lucet and cord. Lucet based on multiple finds from
Sweden housed at the Sigtuna museum.
21. Cloth cutting shears. Copy of 14th century artifact from
the Thames, England. Housed at the VandA.
22. Metal thread snips. based on a copy in the Museum of London.
23a. 15th century scissors. Artifact Novgorod Musuem, Russia.
Source 13th/15th C medieval paintings.
23b. 14-15th century scissors. Copy from Novgorod Musuem.
23c. 14th century scissors. Based on the image from the 14th
century, A Tailor's Workshop, Tacuinum sanitatis, MS 1673,
Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris
23d. 14-15th century scissors, copy of unnamed artifact, also
seen 15th century painting, The Holy Family
24. Turned wooden box with raw fleece samples. Sample of fleece
straight from the sheep!
25. Beeswax. I use beeswax prior to threading the needle for
sewing to stop the thread from fraying.
26. Aglets. Metal aglets were used at the end of dress or hose
laces, much like the plastic end of shoe laces today.
27. Brass sewing pins. Thicker sewing pins for use on wools.
Finds of pins from the medieval period are extremely common.
28. Pewter and cloth button samples. Reproduction pewter buttons
which are hand cast. Hand stitched fabric buttons.
29. Fine brass pins. Used for sewing fine cloths for veils
etc. Fine linens and silks.
30. Wax tablets in leather case with brass stylus. Hand made
reproduction of a 14th century artifact, set of four wax tablets made
from bone and decorated leather case in the Museum of London. (not
reproduction design on the leather case.)
31. Bone awl. Hand made bone awl for making eyelets.
32. Bone needles. Hand made bone needles which are good for
33. Brass needles. Hand made brass needles which are good for
34. Linen-silk blend samples. A selection of linen silk belnds
suitable for undergarments or light outer garments.
25. Linen weight samples. A selection of linens suitable for
veils, aprons and underclothes.
36. Light-weight dress wool samples. Wool ssuitable to be used
for summer clothing.
37. Woven patterned dress wool samples. Wools woven in stripes
or with herringbone pattern.
38. Mid-light weight dress wool samples.
39. Wool samples to suit mid-weight clothing.
40. Wool samples to suit outers or surcotes. Thickish wools for
cold weather for clothing.
41. Wool samples to suit hose or cloaks. Thick wools suitable
for cold weather clothing or bedding.
42. Tailor's chalk. (currently not shown)
43. Niddy noddy. (currently not shown)